Hit & Run
When a driver flees the scene of a traffic accident – even a relatively minor one – it can quickly spiral into serious hit and run felony charges. The criminal defense team at Fakhimi & Associates know there are a number of reasons people do not stop after a crash.
Those reasons might include:
- Driving with a suspended or revoked license
- Driving without insurance
- Drunk driving
- Immigration status concerns
- Active arrest warrant
- Not understanding motorist obligations under the law
- Not knowing a crash occurred
Per California Vehicle Code 20001, drivers of an accident involving injury or death to another person must immediately stop at the scene of a crash and fulfill the requirements outlined in Vehicle Code 20003 and Vehicle Code 20004. Those requirements include providing the other driver with your identification and other necessary assistance. If a death occurs, it is mandated that local law enforcement or the California Highway Patrol be notified.
These requirements exist regardless of whether a driver is at-fault. That means even if you did not cause the crash, you are required to remain at the scene and fulfill these obligations. But what happens if you’ve already fled the scene and are now worried about what happens next? Your first best decision is to contact an attorney. Your next best decision is to contact the Orange County & Riverside criminal defense lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates. We have successfully represented clients involved in hit and run cases for years. We understand the California court system, and we can guide you through the complexities of a strong defense.What if Alcohol was Involved in the Hit and Run?
If you have been involved in a hit and run and were also arrested for a DUI, you possibly face jail time and substantially higher fines. In addition, a hit and run is worth 2 points, as is a DUI on your license, so you could be looking at four points on your license if convicted of both the DUI and the hit and run. When the California DMV sees 4 points on your license, you may face a suspension of several months or longer due to negligence in your driving. Our hit and run attorneys will fight for a better outcome that does not jeopardize your California driving privileges. There are a number of potential avenues for achieving that, all of which will be discussed as your court case evolves.Are Hit and Run Accidents a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
California law provides for two kinds of hit and run offenses.
If you are charged with misdemeanor hit and run, as codified in Vehicle Code 20002, it means that you are accused of:
- Leaving the scene of a crash
- Without first identifying yourself to the other driver(s) involved
- Another person’s property was damaged as a result of the crash
The primary difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is whether there were injuries. A misdemeanor hit and run often means property damage; a felony hit and run is filed when someone other than the defendant was injured or killed.
It’s crucial for all drivers involved in a crash remain on-scene in order to fulfill these obligations, regardless of who was at fault, the amount of damage inflicted or the seriousness of injuries involved. In this way, nothing is left open to interpretation by law enforcement nor will it come under scrutiny if it evolves.
Particularly in misdemeanor cases, many defendants have no prior record and often don’t even realize they are breaking the law.
We have successfully represented Southern California clients who:
- Drove away after damaging another person’s landscaping or fencing.
- Drove away from a minor accident in which the other driver was clearly at fault.
- Drove away from a crash defendant caused, even though defendant’s vehicle did not actually collide with any other vehicle.
A conviction for misdemeanor hit and run offense can result in a maximum six months in jail, up to $1,000 in fines and payment of restitution.
In California, a felony hit and run comes with harsher repercussions. Note that even though it’s referred to as a felony, it actually a wobbler. This means the district attorney has discretion to try it as a misdemeanor, even if there were injuries. An experienced hit and run defense lawyer knows how to negotiate a reduction of charges, and this can be particularly effective if the defendant has no prior criminal record and assuming the injuries were relatively minor.
If a felony hit and run is tried as a misdemeanor, potential penalties can and often do include:
- A fine of between $1,000 and $10,000
- Up to 1 year in county jail (minimum 90 days if someone was killed or seriously injured)
If a felony hit and run is tried in court as a felony, defendant will face:
- A fine of between $1,000 and $10,000
- Minimum 16 months in prison, maximum 3 years in prison (for injury)
- Minimum 2 years in prison, maximum 4 years in prison (for permanent, serious injury or death)
One of the first things our Orange County hit and run defense lawyers will do is analyze all available evidence, and determine whether there was any impropriety or mistakes in the police investigation.
Beyond that, our defense attorneys would consider the possibility of arguing:
- The absence of vehicle or property damage;
- No one was injured but defendant
- Defendant was not actually driving the vehicle at the time of the crash
- Driver did not realize a crash had occurred or that there was a chance anyone else was injured
- Defendant did not willfully leave the scene or fail to identify himself following the crash
We have decades of experience and much of our clientele is due to former clients recommending our legal services to their friends and families. It’s both a responsibility and an honor. If you’ve been charged with hit and run in Orange County or Riverside, we encourage you to contact our offices today for a complimentary consultation.